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Joseph Lupica

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

B.A., Kent State University; B.S. and Ph.D., Cleveland State University

Walsh University
A Catholic University of Distinction
2020 East Maple Street
North Canton, Ohio44720
United States

Vitamin B-12 may be the Trojan Horse in War on Cancer

Vitamin B-12 may be the Trojan Horse in War on Cancer

Assistant Professor Dr. Joseph Lupica is researching the effects of a man-made drug on cancer cells. For more than ten years, he has collaborated on the cancer treatment research with the Trojan-Horse vitamin B12-based compound known as NO-Cbl discovered by Walsh alum Dr. Joseph Bauer '94.

“It’s an ongoing process where you don’t often get to see the end results of your work. The frustration with cancer research is that we are one small piece of a very big puzzle of work,” said Dr. Lupica. “You find a piece here and another piece over there. Everything we do will go into a big collection and somebody across the globe, ten years from now, might need that piece to complete the puzzle.”

Cancer cells are known to carry receptors that draw vitamin B-12 into the tumor. While studying in graduate school, Dr. Bauer began to wonder if B-12 could act as a Trojan horse and carry the deadly chemotherapy agent nitric oxide. The plan of attack would begin with the B-12 Trojan Horse making its way deep inside a cancer tumor and, when there, activate and kill the cancer cell from the inside out. Once the cancer cell is dead and the nitric oxide no longer active, the vitamin B-12 would then move naturally into the blood stream and aid in the healing process of the patient.

In 2011, Dr. Bauer's company BNOAT Oncology, Inc., was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Research Contract for $200,000 through the Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. With support from the grant, Dr. Bauer enlisted the aid of a team at Walsh, including Dr. Lupica, Dr. Heston, and Dr. Dunphy, to assist in the initial groundwork on the SBIR Phase 1 to advance the clinical development of NO-Cbl through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for cancer.

Tiffany Slutz, a Walsh biology pre-med major, has aided by researching the best way to optimize the production parameters of the drug; for example, what is the best ratio of the solvent to the precursor drug?

“Tiffany’s research was translated into some pretty useful data into the drug production,” said Dr. Lupica. “The real proof will be how effective the mass produced drug will be in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Our students are growing cancer cells in the lab and treating them with both the small and large batch of NO-Cbl drug. We then compare results and answer the question, ‘how well does the mass produced drug inhibit the cancer cell growth?’”

The ultimate hope is that NO-Cbl research will lead to a revolutionary new medicine that could redefine the standard of care in cancer treatment for both humans and animals.

Slutz also spent her lab hours researching and comparing the stability of the two drugs to help aid in the final manufacturing process. Her discoveries became a part of her final senior research project in 2014.

“Tiffany investigated how fast each drug could break down if exposed to different variables such as ultra-violet light, cold, or heat. Conditions that are often found on a shelf or in a warehouse,” said Dr. Lupica. “These are all things that a drug might be exposed to while waiting for distribution. Doses must be the same from batch to batch, and consistent in treatment results. There is a lot of testing required to make sure a treatment drug is safe to distribute.”

All of Walsh's research becomes a part of NO-Cbl’s FDA approval process.

“We all want to be the big breakthrough. We all want to be the Alexander Flemings who discover penicillin. And that just doesn’t happen very often,” said Dr. Lupica. “But scientists are actually motivated a little differently than most. We are motivated by the discovery process itself. In all research, if you are looking for that home run, they are few and far between. In total, it’s the small victories that add up to a game well-played.”

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